School grounds no place for sexual violence

Friday, October 20, 2017

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has added its voice to nationwide calls for strong action to be taken to end sexual violence, especially in schools.

SAHRC Commissioner responsible for Education, André Gaum, said the right to education, as set out in section 29 of the Bill of Rights, cannot be fully realised if schools are not places of safety for children.

“For the right to education to be meaningfully and fully realised, schools need to be free of sexual predators and we need to find solutions.”

Gaum said cooperation of the SAHRC, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), the Department of Basic Education, government departments and parents will assist in addressing safety in schools.  

The SAHRC, alongside the CGE and two Chapter 9 institutions, intends to collaborate and work with the Department of Basic Education and communities to address abuse in schools and communities.

A spate of reports on sexual violence in schools across South Africa has dominated the news. One of these reports is that of 87 girl pupils, who were allegedly sexually assaulted by a 57–year-old school patroller at AB Xuma Primary School in Soweto.

More reports have since emerged, notably that of a 17-year-old learner, who had allegedly been raped by a patroller in a separate incident in Pretoria. The Gauteng Department of Education has indicated that at least five separate incidents are under investigation, in the province alone.

SAHRC has expressed dismay at the reports. “In addition to the fact that this persistent and ongoing sexual violence within our communities is criminal, it also constitutes egregious human rights violations and an infringement of children’s rights, as outlined in Section 28 of our Constitution,” said the commission.

Awareness of children’s rights was emphasised by Commissioner Angie Makwetla, who said parents need to be empowered to enable them to pass on the knowledge to their children.

“Parents need to be empowered and made aware of the rights of their children at all times and under all circumstances,” said Commissioner Makwetla. -

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